Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shit to Do During a Summer Internship in the San Francisco Bay Area

My employer hired a number of fellows and interns to work for us this summer. I was involved in hiring our two undergraduate interns, including one also named Juan who came out from Texas for a ten-week internship. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area I felt a responsibility to make sure he squeezed all the juice out of his time here. This served as the inspiration for this post.

Like anyone, I have my own style. I roll in a particular way. Por ejemplo, when I’m traveling to an unfamiliar city or area I am far, far more likely to gravitate toward a seedy dive bar than some wine-tasting tour. Also, since I’m a restless human being (if I were a dog, my energy would likely match that of, say, an English Springer Spaniel) I like to keep on the move.

And so, here’s a list of activities to do in the San Francisco Bay Area—mostly centered around San Francisco and Oakland—that meets my personal stamp of approval.

1)                Go for a hike!
We Californians are a blessed with gorgeous natural landscapes. Within the Bay Area we don’t have to go far to leave the suburban tracts and urban humdrum behind. The East Bay Regional Park District alone comprises 65 parks. San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area is home to Land’s End, a ridiculously gorgeous trail that hugs the coast. Exquisite natural areas in Marin County (Muir Woods!), Santa Cruz County (Big Basin!) and the Peninsula (Memorial Park!) are within a two-hour drive. Shit, Yosemite and the Stanislaus National Forest can be reached within three hours of driving.

Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, CA
2)                Ride a cable car
What is a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area without riding a cable car in San Pancho? An incomplete one, I say! Sure, the queues can be long, and the cable car fares are not exactly proletarian-friendly, but I humbly believe it is a uniquely San Franciscan experience. Personally, I enjoy riding a cable car by hanging onto a pole. This way, you can truly feel the wind swirl around you and you can really feel other vehicles swoosh past. From an aesthetic and physical standpoint it’s a complete experience but I imagine sitting on a seat facing the passing streets is aesthetically pleasing as well.

3)                Eat out a lot! (This is not meant to be a sexual reference, but you can interpret it as one and you won’t find any disagreement from me.)
You will never ever fucking catch me referring to myself as a “foodie,” let alone using that word (I happen to think terms like “foodie” or “selfie” are symptomatic of a largely vapid popular culture), but I do love to eat yummy food. I’ve been around enough to know that we’re pretty spoiled here in terms of our dining options. You like eating pizza? We have tons of excellent pizzerias. Mexican food? We got that, too. I have yet to find a restaurant in the Bay Area that prepares genuine-tasting New Mexican cuisine, or good Puerto Rican food, but we’ve otherwise just about got it all. So gobble it all up! (Can you tell I’m an American?) That’s what your mouth and digestive system is for!

4)                Sample the local green (unless you’re not into that)
The late Robin Williams said it best:

Fact: California’s medical marijuana is potent shit, man. In terms of THC content, you’d have to fly to Amsterdam to procure stuff that is as potent as what’s being grown in the Emerald Triangle.

5)                 If you’re 21 and like drinking beer, visit a brewery
The West Coast has some of the top hot spots for craft beer: Seattle, San Diego, Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area. If you love good beer as much as I do my legal counsel would advise you to hit up a brewery or two during your extended stay. Anything less would be a disservice to your liver and kidneys.

In San Leandro you can check out either Drake’s Brewing Company or 21st Amendment Brewery off of the Davis Street exit on Hwy 880. In Oakland you can head past Jack London Square to visit the Linden Street Brewery. In San Francisco you can visit the Speakeasy Brewery or Anchor Steam’s brewery in Potrero Hill (and couple it with a meal at Goat Hill Pizza, which uses mild sourdough for their pizzas). Or, if you want a little day trip, check out the Lagunitas Brewery in Petuluma.

6)                Visit the Golden Gate Bridge

What’s a trip to San Francisco—or the Bay Area—without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge? Blasphemy, I say!

7)                Visit Baker Beach on a sunny day
Speaking of the Golden Gate, this is the place to visit if you want to breath in some super-sexy views of the bridge and the Marin Headlands. A couple of points of caution:

·        True summer-weather days in San Pancho are rare. If you decide to go to Baker Beach on a typical overcast day, it will likely be a bit cold there.
·        If you decide to visit Baker Beach on one of those rare summer days—unless it’s during the week—it will be packed. Parking can be a pain.

8)                Catch a game at AT&T Park
So I’m not a big fan of baseball for several of the reasons Chris Rock pointed out on his recent HBO Sports spot:

But I’ll admit, attending a baseball game is kind of a quintessential summer experience in ‘Murica, no? If you’re in the S.F. Bay Area for the summer, do yourself a favor and catch a game at AT&T Park. Sure, I haven’t attended games at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park or Camden Yards, but I’m fairly sure the Giants home park is one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums. My buddy and fellow blogsmith, Justin—who’s a big baseball fan—lists it as one of his favorite baseball parks. He knows what he’s talking about!

9)                Take a tour of North Beach
If you ask me, a visit to San Francisco is incomplete without a visit to the North Beach neighborhood. Being a writer, I’m biased; I recognize that. And so, it should be no surprise that a neighborhood that used to be the stomping ground for the Beats is appealing to me. It should also be no surprise that a neighborhood with the most iconic book store in the San Francisco Bay Area is alluring to me—and a historic bar where Kerouac and the Beats used to hole up just happens to be next door. Mentally, I always cream myself when I see both establishments, I’ll be honest.

view from Coit Tower
But there’s even more to North Beach: a visit to Coit Tower is a must in my book. You might catch a glimpse of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. There are some excellent joints to grab a quick bite: Golden Boy Pizza, Giordano Bros. There are plenty of superb sit-down restaurants that are excellent places to take someone you’re trying to bag, like Rose Pistola, Capo’s (The Dillinger is probably the best Chicago pizza I’ve ever eaten, with all respect to Gino’s East, which I have had the pleasure of eating) and Sodini’s.

And if you’re into strip clubs, sweet baby Jesus this is your part of town!

10)               Check out Dolores Park
In a city composed of dips and hills (that’s not a metaphor)—with a minimal amount of gumption—one can inevitably stumble upon a good vista of this urban jungle. The corner of 20th and Church is one of those outstanding spots—if you can stomach all the hipsters lingering about the park (unless you are a hipster, in which case, this is apparently one of your worldly meccas).

11)                  If you like murals, take a mural tour in the Mission District
mural on the corner of Lexington and 18th St.

El barrio Mission is teeming with murals. Precita Eyes, one of only three community mural centers in the United States, offers walking tours of the murals along two of the main throughways. Their tours are held on the weekends and range from $15-20.

12)                   Go kayaking!
In my adulthood I’ve become a fan of kayaking. Maybe you like it, too? If so, there are various places you can get your kayak on.

In Oakland you can go kayaking out in the bay by renting kayaks at Jack London Square. For a true urban experience you can rent a kayak at the Lake Merritt Boating Center (cash only; Oakland residents get a discount) and steer that baby around the lake. In San Francisco kayaks can be rented from City Kayak at Pier 40 by AT&T Park. (It’s worthwhile to make reservations, especially on a day when the Giants are playing at home.)

13)                   Have a lunch at the Kaiser Rooftop Garden in downtown Oakland
The Kaiser Rooftop Garden in downtown Oakland near the west side of Lake Merritt is a gem. Situated atop Kaiser’s downtown parking garage, the surprisingly beautiful rooftop garden is a delightful, chillaxing urban cove. During the summer they hold free concerts every Friday from 12 – 1 p.m.

Kaiser Rooftop Garden
If you’re in the downtown area during the workweek (the garden is only open Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.), grab a lunch at one of the nearby yummy local eateries such as True Burger, Athenian Deli and Cafe (their falafel plate is outstanding), Aroma Bakery & Café, The Lunch Box, Taiwan Bento or Deli Fresh and head up to the rooftop garden.

14)                  Visit the Mountain View Cemetery in Piedmont
Trust me on this: Mountain View Cemetery in Piedmont is a gorgeous place. With the exception of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, this is the most beautiful cemetery I’ve seen—and I’ve inadvertently visited four of the twenty-one cemeteries listed on Travel+Leisure’s World’s Most Beautiful Cemeteries.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the cemetery provides beauteous vistas of the surrounding bay. On clear days you can see the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo from the same spot up atop the tallest hill. In the mornings you can see locals jogging about the cemetery’s foothills, or walking their dogs. It’s not because Piedmont is teeming with morbid fuckers: it’s just a beautiful, tranquil spot that happens to be home to the dead.

15)                   Check out a film!
My inner geek was bound to make his presence felt in this post, and this is where he comes out.

Although we’ve lost many of our independent movie houses in recent years (RIP Bridge Theatre, Fine Arts Cinema, Lumiere Theatre and UC Theatre), the San Francisco Bay Area still has some wonderful movie houses. My favorite one has always been The Castro in the—you guessed it—Castro District. In my humble opinion, The Castro’s East Bay brethren is the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. The Parkway closed a few years back but reincarnated as the eclectic, bike-friendly New Parkway in Oakland’s Uptown. Downtown Berkeley still has the California Theatre and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema with its bedazzling ceilings. Up north in San Rafael they have the Rafael Film Center, which is home of my most treasured movie-going experience when I saw Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange for the first time on the big screen. Oakland’s ridiculously gorgeous Paramount Theatre has their Movie Classics series in which you can catch a classic film for the price of a pint of beer.

All this to say: if you treasure a superb movie-going experience, check out a film at one of our movie houses.

16)                   Catch a music show!
On a similar note, we have a bunch of terrific music venues throughout the Bay Area.
I will inevitably fail to mention a few outstanding venues, but here are a few off the top of my head: Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach; Yoshi’s in Oakland’s Jack London Square (or their location in San Francisco’s Fillmore District); the Great American Music Hall in the Tenderloin; the renovated Fox Theater in downtown Oakland; Oakland’s Paramount Theater; Café Du Nord in San Francisco’s Upper Market area, and, of course, the historic Fillmore in San Pancho. Outside of the 415 or Oakland there’s the Greek Theater in Berkeley. The Chapel in the heart of Hipsterlandia (a.k.a. the Mission District) is one of my new favorite venues.

If you’re in town for the summer, you’re bound to find a musical act passing through the bay that’s up your alley.

17)                  Check out the Berkeley Kite Festival

Photo by Daniel Parks
Do you like kites? Does running around with one bring out your inner child? Or does seeing a sky filled with kites make you fleetingly feel like everything is okay in the world? If so, check out Berkeley’s annual Kite Festival! It’s held at Cesar Chavez Park by the Berkeley Marina on the last weekend in July.

18)       Take a cruise or ferry ride on the bay
Consider this advice I wish I would take.

A ferry ride from Jack London Square to San Francisco’s gorgeous Ferry Building should not be missed. For around $5 you can take a ride past Treasure Island, beneath the Bay Bridge with a sexy, sprawling view of San Francisco for the final act.

The Red and White Fleet from Pier 43 ½ out of Fisherman’s Wharf provide an assortment of cruises along the bay. Instead of queuing for a trip to Alcatraz—which is fun to visit—you may want to opt for one of these cruises instead (though they are pricey).

19)                   Hit the beach!
Sure, the ocean water here is dialed to freezing-fucking-cold but that doesn’t mean our beaches should be missed! In San Francisco there’s Ocean Beach although it tends to be overcast and blustery. (I may be in the minority camp here, but I think it’s only worthwhile to visit the beach on a nice day, which means it will be crowded.) If you’re the warm-water beach-bathing type, my sources tell me Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda—a charming suburban island separate from Oakland—is the place to go in the Bay Area.

Along the coast you might consider visiting Pacifica (which, in all likelihood, has the world’s most beautifully-situated Taco Bell in the world!) or Half Moon Bay for a trip to the beach. If you want to couple a beach outing with a day trip than drive out to Santa Cruz or Capitola.

20)                   Hit up the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!
If you’re going to be in town for more than a few days, I humbly feel like a pilgrimage to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is necessary for a complete summer experience.

The Boardwalk has been open since 1907. The park charges no admission though it will, of course, cost you to hop aboard their rides. A couple of must-rides include The Giant Dipper, a creaky, hulking wooden roller coaster ride that has been running since 1924. Their carousel ride is my favorite since 1) it’s relatively cheap, 2) it’s charming in a genuinely old-timey way, and—most importantly, 3) the ride dishes out rings you can grab on each rotation to try to toss into the mouth of a clown. (I am easily amused sometimes!)

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The amusement park grub is okay and reasonably priced. Their arcade should not be missed; they have a corner of the arcade devoted to old school games like Asteroids, Centipede and Tetris. The park has a water ride that may get you soaked—if that’s your thing. It also has a Ferris wheel, a potentially vomit-inducing Cyclone ride (if that’s your thing), a haunted house, a fanciful swing ride, and a few respectable-looking thrill rides.

And the beach is right there. Perfect spot to catch a sunset.

It’s tough to beat all that.

21)                   Three words: Weekend Camping Trip!
I may be a homer, but sometimes I forget just how close we Bay Area folks are to a bewildering assortment of natural parks and areas. Here’s a few off the top of my noggin: Yosemite (3 – 3 ½ hour drive away), Stanislaus National Forest (3 hour drive), Big Basin Redwoods State Park (1 – 1 ½ hour drive from the Bay Area, depending on traffic and starting point), Big Sur out by Monterey (2 ½ - 3 hour drive), and Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley.

Here’s a link to find California State Parks. Reserve America is another nifty site to help you find a camping spot.

Unless you’re not the outdoorsy type—and god help you if you’re not—a summer trip to California would be blasphemous without visiting at least one of our state or national parks.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

What did I miss? I'd love to hear from you!

Honorable Mentions:
·        San Francisco Pride (last weekend of June)
·        A visit to the de Young Museum and Golden Gate Park (if you visit the museum, make sure to go to the top of the tower for a fantastic panoramic view of the city)
·        A visit to the Legion of Honor and surrounding area
·        Ride a bike in San Francisco’s Critical Mass (last Friday of every month starting at 5:30 p.m. from Justin Hermann Plaza in front of the Ferry Building)

1 comment:

  1. I am an event photographer, I love this venue, and I will revisit this venue in a heartbeat. The Chicago venues have really great staff and pretty decent drinks. Their halls and rooms are absolutely gorgeous.